Pictures of a Rattlesnake Bite in the Hospital

Pictures of a Rattlesnake Bite and Its Growing Red Streaks

A northern California beekeeper tending his hives got a rattlesnake bite. He and the rattlesnake ended up in the hospital.

He graciously allowed images of his wound, the snake, and the evidence of his progressing envenomation to be posted here. See how the wound and the growing red streaks that accompany a real rattlesnake bite look in the first few hours.


A Rattlesnake Encounter

man holding out arm to show rattlesnake bite

Sabrina Cherry

As the bee keeper was tending his hives, he reached under a pallet and felt a sting. Nonplussed (stings are a way of life in his business), he continued moving the pallet. He felt another sting. It wasn’t until he heard the rattle of the snake that he realized what happened.

He killed the snake and took it with him to the hospital for identification. Since he’d already killed it, it was a good idea; even if you think you know what kind of snake bit you. If you’re trying to decide whether to kill it or not: Don’t bother. Being able to identify the snake is not worth risking a second bite.

Notice the red streak traveling up the man’s arm. Red streaks like this can indicate venom, allergy, infection, or a number of other conditions. He heard the rattle, found the snake, and felt the bite; he was pretty sure he knew what this red streak was.


Rattlesnake Bite on Hand

man holding out arm to show rattlesnake bite

Rod Brouhard

The saying goes: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

The beekeeper’s hand got two rattlesnake bites for the price of one. I’m sure he wished the rattlesnake had stayed in the bush and not under the pallet he was trying to move.

The first bite got him on the index finger, which is not easy to see in this picture. The second bite got him in the pad at the base of his thumb. There’s one pinhole where the fang broke the skin, enough for the little rattlesnake to inject its venom.

He had to drive toward civilization just to call 911 from his cell phone.

Trying to drive after being bitten by a venomous snake is not recommended, given the risk of losing consciousness. Unfortunately, the beekeeper didn’t have any other good options.

There are three important tips to remember from his experience:

  1. Don’t put your hands where you can’t see them in rattlesnake country.
  2. Rattlesnakes don’t always rattle before biting.
  3. Always know where you are in case you need to call 911.

Rattlesnake’s Bite Is a Red Streak

man holding out arm to show rattlesnake bite
As Time Marches On, So the Ominous Red Streak.

Sabrina Cherry

In the emergency department he got antivenin, pain medication and muscle relaxers. While waiting for the antivenin to work, ER staff kept an eye on the red streak traveling along the beekeeper’s arm.

To keep track of how quickly the red streak is growing, the staff periodically marked the proximal point (closest to the heart) with the time. From 11:43 to 12:43, the streak traveled approximately 2 inches.

It’s important to get help right away after a snake bite. Until help arrives, you can mark any red streaks in the same way to show emergency medical staff how quickly the venom is spreading.


Bringing the Rattlesnake to the Hospital

dead snake brought into hospital after bite

Rod Brouhard

When the beekeeper got the rattlesnake bite, he killed the snake and brought it with him to the hospital. He says killing it was nearly a reflex and it surely was much safer than trying to transport the rattlesnake alive.

Bringing the rattlesnake was a useful step. It may seem unnecessary because he heard the rattle and saw the snake, but there are many species of rattlesnakes and not all the venom is the same. Many species of rattlesnake share habitats, so it could be any type.


Identifying the Rattlesnake That Bit the Beekeeper

rattlesnake in a box

Rod Brouhard

Edward Wozniak, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian and snake expert, says that taking a picture will do for identification as long as the image contains the snake’s entire body. The picture should be in focus as well.

Identification isn’t as important as getting treatment quickly. If it delays getting to the hospital to get a picture (or get the snake) then skip it altogether.

Wozniak says that some more exotic species—commonly kept in captivity as pets—require special treatment. He is especially concerned about the Mojave rattlesnake, which he says may be missed in the ER as either a minor envenomation or as a “dry bite” (no venom) until the patient starts showing signs of major nerve damage. Hopefully, ER doctors in areas where the Mojave rattlesnake live are aware of its odd symptoms.

According to Dr. Wozniak, this snake is a Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri). “While the western diamondback does indeed range into California,” said Wozniak in an email, “its distribution is limited to the southeastern extreme of the state.”

Wozniak says this type of rattlesnake has a particularly dangerous venom, sometimes reaching the level of the Mojave rattlesnake. “Pacific rattlesnakes typically pack a ‘double whammy’,” he said in his email, “often leaving the victim with life threatening systemic poisoning and extensive local tissue destruction.”

There’s no way to know how old this snake was. It was 25 inches long, but that doesn’t really tell us the age. Dr. Wozniak says these guys don’t get as big as diamondbacks. There’s also a myth that rattlesnake ages can be determined by the number of rattles, but rattles break off.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. UCI Health. What to do if you're bitten by a rattlesnake.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Venomous snake bites: symptoms & first aid.

Additional Reading

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.